Fox brings buzzword ‘programmatic’ to local TV advertising

Fox is making a portion of its broadcast network inventory available for “programmatic” buys – though it really means automated buys. The broadcast group, Fox Television Stations, owns 28 local TV stations in 17 markets, reaching 37% of US households, which means it’s the largest broadcast group to adopt automated buying techniques for its local TV inventory. It’s the latest in a concerted push by broadcasters to bring linear TV advertising more in line with digital and cross-platform advertising.

Fox Television is already using programmatic for some of its digital and cross-platform inventory, through a partnership with Facebook’s LiveRail. Over the past year, Fox has been building up its data-driven advertising offerings through the launch of its Audience Insights Manager (AIM).

The group has struck a deal with WideOrbit to automate buying of some of its inventory. WideOrbit will enable Fox to offer ad inventory through an open marketplace and in a programmatic direct model that’ll automate transactions with select buyers. WideOrbit will also offer integration with CoreMedia Systems for direct response ad buys to be bought and placed programmatically.

WideOrbit is working with a handful of broadcast groups covering 750 local stations for advertising, including Meredith, Scripps, Raycom, Graham Media, Grey, Tribune and Tegna. WideOrbit’s programmatic TV coverage footprint connects advertisers with local TV inventory reaching up to 92% of US households.

The idea is that Fox will be testing out a number of programmatic offerings to see which ones benefit Fox and its advertisers the most. To be clear, Fox isn’t offering up its inventory for real-time bidding. Fox is only making its inventory available to more buyers in an automated way, removing some of the work for Fox, and hoping to make some of its inventory available to more buyers.

“Based on our tests over the last year, we are convinced that programmatic advertising will be a complementary additional sales channel for our stations,’ said Jim Burke, president of sales for Fox Television Stations. “Opening a programmatic sales channel is a clear win for everyone involved in the media buying process and we’re proud to be the first network owned-and-operated group to offer it to our buying partners.”

The new deal builds on earlier efforts to bring more efficiency to Fox’s TV advertising business. Last year, Fox announced a deal to make some of its national cable inventory available for automated buying. NBC also announced programmatic for its cable TV inventory in 2016. And the company is demonstrating its eagerness to experiment with new ad formats for linear TV. This week, Fox announced it will offer digitally-familiar six second commercial spots during the Teen Choice 2017 awards show later this month. Duracell and Mars are the first to jump on the new format.

TV planning is more difficult in today’s fragmented audience environment, which is precisely why broadcasters are so interested in getting into programmatic. By streamlining linear TV advertising buying, programmatic approaches to linear TV advertising could help grease the wheels.
Local TV inventory has been consistently left behind in advertising advancements, particularly when it comes to adding in efficiencies like automated buying, or using data to deliver better results. Local inventory also suffers from measurement issues, which has limited local TV stations’ ability to offer more advanced media planning offerings. Local stations usually don’t have much data on their viewers, either, beyond demographic data, which means they can’t offer advanced audience guarantees.

Earlier this year, Sinclair Broadcasting Group tried to launch an independent advertising co-op for TV station groups. The co-op, called OxMyx, aggregated inventory from across TV stations and enabled programmatic and audience-guaranteed media buys for local stations, using advertising technology from Visible World. The idea was to create a national footprint for TV stations to leverage in selling ads. But Sinclair wasn’t able to convince many other TV stations to sign on to the co-op, and later put the whole idea on hold while it completes its acquisition of Tribune Media.